Nov. 6, 2013
HOUSTON - Featuring eight freshmen and a strong returning core, Rice University men's basketball opens the 2013-14 season on Saturday with a home contest against St. Thomas. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Saturday's game begins the first of a two-game homestand for the Owls as the team welcomes Southeastern Louisiana to Tudor Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Nov. 12. Six of the Owls' 14 home games this season are against non-conference opponents, and Rice hosts five Conference USA newcomers in 2013-14 as well.
The Owls feature three returning starters in Seth Gearhart, Max Guercy and Ross Wilson, while Austin Ramljak earned a place in the starting five in the final 17 games of the season in 2012-13. Rice's eight returning players bring back a majority of the team's scoring, rebounding and assists from a season ago, despite the graduation of Tamir Jackson, who ranked third in Conference USA in scoring (17.7 ppg) and finished his career in Rice's top 10 in numerous categories.
Also returning for the Owls are veteran upperclassmen Bahrom Firozgary, who enters his second season on the squad after seeing action in all 31 games a season ago, and junior guard Dan Peera, who ranks second on the team with 37 games played over the past two seasons. Sophomore Keith Washington saw action in 29 games last season and the squad also regains the services of redshirt freshman Nizar Kapic, who missed all but last season's opening game with an injury.
Among the newcomers, Andrew Drone and Sean Obi look to give Rice a post presence that the team lacked a season ago. Early signees Drew Bender and Marcus Jackson along with classmates Joey Burbach and Hunter Eggers give the Owls a great deal of depth on the perimeter as well. Denzel Davis will redshirt 2013-14 while recovering from a knee injury.
Head coach Ben Braun returns for his sixth season at the helm. In 35 seasons he has racked up 608 wins, placing him 12th among active head coaches.
Rice students are encouraged to come to the game early. The Owls' women's basketball squad will be on hand in the area by the student section beginning at 1 p.m. to hand out Autry Army t-shirts and free food before tip-off. The men's basketball team will do the same prior to the women's team's home opener on Monday evening.
Scouting the Celts
St. Thomas played across town at the University of Houston on Tuesday night, in an exhibition for the Cougars. The contest was close in the first half as neither team led by more than six points in the opening 20 minutes. UH then pulled away in the second half for an 81-63 win.
Three players scored in double figures for the Celts in the game, led by 15 points each from Deric Dudley and Sean Edwards. Dudley also secured a team-high seven of UST's 32 rebounds.
Rice holds a 2-1 advantage in three meetings against the cross-town foe.
Saturday's matchup marks the fourth-straight season in which the teams have met, with all four coming at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The Celts avenged a pair of double-figure losses last season with a 72-59 win against the Owls in the 2012-13 season opener.
Guercy scored 12 points with four assists in his collegiate debut in the game, while Gearhart averages 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in two meetings with St. Thomas.
UST head coach Todd Smith previously served as an assistant coach at Rice.
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